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2023 Annual Seminar on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust

A Jewish child in hiding stands among a group of Catholic children dressed up for their First Communion, Poland, circa 1943. —United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Eve Nisencwajg Bergstein

Religious Approaches to Understanding Rescue During the Holocaust 

May 30–June 2, 2023 (In-Person)

Accounts of Christians aiding or rescuing Jews are among the most popular narratives in Holocaust studies; yet stories of rescue and the lessons ascribed to them have been understood in vastly different ways in the decades since the Holocaust. For some survivors, acknowledging rescuers was a way to reaffirm the goodness of humanity in the face of their own trauma. Others felt a responsibility to show that rescue was possible, thereby shattering postwar claims of ignorance or the impossibility of rescue by non-Jewish populations.

Other perspectives on rescue during the Holocaust seek to explore Christian ethics and didactic lessons of moral courage and altruism. Some scholarly and popular studies of Christian rescue (that is, rescue by Christian individuals, networks, or institutions) tend to portray rescuers as protagonists and downplay Jewish agency. Recent scholarship has begun to challenge this approach, instead emphasizing the interconnectedness of Jewish and Christian aid efforts and the prevalence of Jewish self-help. Newer scholarship has also brought to light cases of Muslim rescuers, which need to be integrated into the broader narrative. Most significantly, historiography on Christian rescuers has tended to overemphasize theological motivations and underemphasize historical context and contingency, focusing on intention rather than outcomes. How then do we understand and teach about rescue in a responsible and nuanced manner?

This seminar will explore the religious dimensions of rescue during the Holocaust and the historiographical development of the study of rescue. Participants will interact with a range of historical studies and primary sources in both western and eastern European contexts. The seminar will explore best practices for how to teach this material in higher education settings and how to address complex dynamics, such as baptism, conversion, the impact of World War II in various countries, antisemitism, the return of children after the war, the development of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations program, and the relationship between Christian rescue and Christian complicity. 

Seminar Leaders

The seminar will be led by Dr. Joanna Sliwa, Historian at the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) and Dr. Rebecca Carter-Chand, Director, Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

Dr. Joanna Sliwa is Historian at the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), where she is also Administrator of the Saul Kagan Fellowship in Advanced Shoah Studies, and of the University Partnership in Holocaust Studies. Her own research focuses on the Holocaust in Poland and on Polish Jewish history. Joanna’s first book, Jewish Childhood in Kraków: A Microhistory of the Holocaust (2021) received a 2020 Ernst Fraenkel Prize from the Wiener Holocaust Library. Her second book, Counterfeit Countess: The Jewish Woman Who Rescued Thousands of Poles during the Holocaust, co-authored with Dr. Elizabeth (Barry) White, a historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, will appear in 2024. Joanna has taught Holocaust history at universities and in teacher training programs, and has worked as a consultant for academic texts, websites, films, TV programs, and exhibits.   

Dr. Rebecca Carter-Chand is Director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is the co-editor with Kevin Spicer of, Religion, Ethnonationalism, and Antisemitism in the Era of the Two World Wars (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022). She is currently completing a book manuscript, The Salvation Army and German Belonging in the Nazi Era. Her research interests include Christian minority groups in Nazi Germany and Christian rescue and aid to Jews during the Holocaust. Rebecca has taught Holocaust and European history at universities in Canada and the United States. She serves on the executive board of the Council for Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations and the editorial boards of Contemporary Church History Quarterly and the journal Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte. 

Seminar Format

The seminar will include in-person, virtual, and asynchronous elements. We will begin with a virtual session in late May (date TBD), followed by four days in-person at the Museum: Tuesday, May 30–Friday, June 2, 2023. A follow-up virtual session will be scheduled for Fall 2023. Additional asynchronous activities will include independent readings, videos, and online forums. 

Opportunities for informal networking and small-group meetings will be facilitated via the seminar’s digital platform and during our four days together in Washington, DC. A full agenda and reading list will be provided one month before the start of the seminar through the Seminar’s digital platform.


Applications are welcome from professors, college instructors (including those in part-time or adjunct positions), and advanced doctoral students who are currently teaching or preparing to teach courses that could potentially integrate the Holocaust and related topics into their lectures, assignments, activities, or campus events (teaching an entire course on the Holocaust is not required). We welcome applicants from any religious tradition or denominational affiliation. Clergy and religious professionals who are engaged in adult education or part-time teaching will be considered. Faculty based at institutions outside North America will also be considered if they meet the criteria above.

Application Details

Applications must include: (1) a curriculum vitae; (2) a 1-2 page statement of interest; (3) a letter of support from a dissertation advisor, departmental chair, or dean addressing the applicant’s qualifications; and (4) a draft syllabus on a topic that could potentially incorporate any of the topics that the seminar will address. 

In your statement of interest, please specifically address: 

  • How the Seminar would augment or impact the course(s) you anticipate teaching; 

  • How the Seminar would help to meet your institution’s needs and/or expand your institution’s curricular offerings; 

  • How your perspective, experiences, and/or disciplinary approach will enhance the Seminar discussions. 

Applications must be received in electronic form by March 10, 2023. The application form is available here. Letters of support may be uploaded electronically or sent directly to Julia Liden, Program Coordinator for Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust, at

Admission will be determined without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or reprisal. The Museum also prohibits any form of workplace discrimination or harassment.

Travel and Lodging

For non-local participants, the Mandel Center will cover the cost of (1) direct travel to and from the participant’s home institution and Washington, DC, and (2) lodging for the duration of the Seminar. All participants will be provided $250 to defray the cost of meals and incidentals. 

COVID-19 Safety Measures

The health and safety of Museum guests and staff is always the Museum's top priority. The Museum takes all reasonable safety precautions but cannot guarantee the safety of any participant. Participants acknowledge that their risk of COVID-19 exposure may increase by participating in the program or by engaging in any other travel. By participating in the program, you voluntarily assume all risks related to COVID-19 exposure and release the Museum from any associated liability.

Per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Museum encourages all participants to stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations. The Museum’s safety measures are based on CDC COVID-19 Community Levels and will be adjusted to reflect any changes in the level. Prior to the program, the Museum will provide updates regarding the latest guidelines related to health and safety protocols. Participants agree to abide by all health and safety protocols required by the United States, the Museum, and/or the local jurisdiction rules applicable to the program.